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Doctors will end up paying if GMC is sued

Like Dr Richard Colman (Letter, June 9) I was privileged to have been elected as a member of the GMC from 1994 till 1999 and I sat on the conduct committee for those five years. I have to take exception to Dr Colman's pejorative views of the committee.

Its proceedings were always carefully conducted by the members under the guidance of an experienced chair and a legal adviser, normally a leading barrister, who was present all the time. The committee was expected to be impartial at all times, particularly if asking any questions. By strict rule we had no knowledge of any preliminary proceedings and had to judge a case on the evidence presented by counsel for the two sides in the usual British adversarial manner.

We had to decide if the facts had been established, and if so, whether they amounted to serious professional misconduct and if so, what should be the penalty. The available penalties were strictly laid down by law.

I am not in a position to comment on more recent cases, but in my five years on the panel I came away from only five cases where I had seriously disagreed with my colleagues on the committee, and in four of these I felt we had been too lenient. To me it is little short of a disaster that it is proposed to hand over the judgmental function of the committee to outside persons who, however well-qualified in other respects, can have no appreciation of the practise of medicine from the 'inside'.

With regard to suing the GMC, I would advise caution ­ the cost of any action would have to be paid for by the registered members of the profession.

Dr Ian Jessiman

Chislehurst, Kent

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